The 5 Best Marine Radios: Reviews and Complete Buying Guide

marine radio

Selecting the best marine radio is critical as it is the main way you will be communicating with others at sea and ensuring your safety while aboard your boat. Not only do you need your marine radio to fit your needs, but you also need it to be reliable in all situations. With all these factors at play, deciding can be hard; that is why we have created this list of the best 5 marine radios as well as a buyer’s guide to guide you for your purchase.

In a Hurry? Here Are Our Top 3 Picks

Top Pick
Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine Vhf Radio, Waterproof IPX4 with Triple Watch, Dsc, Emergency/Noaa Weather Alert, All Usa/International/Canadian Marine Channels, Memory Channel Scan, White
Runner Up
Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio – 6 Watt, Submersible, Noise Cancelling Mic, Backlit LCD Display, NOAA Weather, Memory Scan, Grey
Best Budget Pick
Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio, Floating IPX7 Submersible Waterproof, Dual-Color Screen, All USA/International/Canadian Marine Channels, NOAA Weather Alert, 10 Hour Battery
Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine Vhf Radio, Waterproof IPX4 with Triple Watch, Dsc, Emergency/Noaa Weather Alert, All Usa/International/Canadian Marine Channels, Memory Channel Scan, White
Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio – 6 Watt, Submersible, Noise Cancelling Mic, Backlit LCD Display, NOAA Weather, Memory Scan, Grey
Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio, Floating IPX7 Submersible Waterproof, Dual-Color Screen, All USA/International/Canadian Marine Channels, NOAA Weather Alert, 10 Hour Battery
$254.00
$114.95
$85.10
-
-
-
Top Pick
Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine Vhf Radio, Waterproof IPX4 with Triple Watch, Dsc, Emergency/Noaa Weather Alert, All Usa/International/Canadian Marine Channels, Memory Channel Scan, White
Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine Vhf Radio, Waterproof IPX4 with Triple Watch, Dsc, Emergency/Noaa Weather Alert, All Usa/International/Canadian Marine Channels, Memory Channel Scan, White
$254.00
-
Runner Up
Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio – 6 Watt, Submersible, Noise Cancelling Mic, Backlit LCD Display, NOAA Weather, Memory Scan, Grey
Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio – 6 Watt, Submersible, Noise Cancelling Mic, Backlit LCD Display, NOAA Weather, Memory Scan, Grey
$114.95
-
Best Budget Pick
Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio, Floating IPX7 Submersible Waterproof, Dual-Color Screen, All USA/International/Canadian Marine Channels, NOAA Weather Alert, 10 Hour Battery
Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio, Floating IPX7 Submersible Waterproof, Dual-Color Screen, All USA/International/Canadian Marine Channels, NOAA Weather Alert, 10 Hour Battery
$85.10
-

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reviews of the 5 Best Marine Radios

Marine radios have many different qualities and features; to help you choose the one that is best for you we have selected the top five that we consider the best marine radios.

1. Uniden UM385 Marine Radio with Fixed Mounting

Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine Vhf Radio, Waterproof IPX4 with Triple Watch, Dsc, Emergency/Noaa Weather Alert, All Usa/International/Canadian Marine Channels, Memory Channel Scan, White
  • Uniden's Marine Radios protect you from what lies ahead, as well as getting you out of dicey waters, by informing you the moment a storm starts brewing and transmitting your location should you need help.
  • With triple watch features, DSC capabilities, a range of international marine channels and S. A. M. E Weather Alert—the UM385 brings everything you’ll need on the water into one compact design.
  • The UM385 rugged handheld mic allows you to transmit easily from the wheel while keeping your focus on the waters ahead.
  • Waterproof Radio – Complies with IPX4 waterproof standards, which means the radio is resistant to damage from rain or splashing water.
  • DSC (Digital Selective Calling) - Includes Distress Button, Position Send and Request. Gives you the ability to press one button to call for help during an emergency. Full Class D DSC capability. High performance transceiver ensures clear communication and

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While this is a fixed mount radio, it is still a great option if you are looking for something compact. This is also a great choice if you are looking for a radio that will give you peace of mind for almost any occasion including severe weather.

This radio lands our top spot due to its triple watch feature that has advanced capabilities and brings you everything you could imagine on your boat. It has access to multiple channels with advanced range and SAME weather alerts.

On the topic of weather alerts, this is an advanced option that can alert you before a storm hits from the very moment it begins to form. This can be a life-saver in terms of getting off the water before severe weather even has a chance to put you in harm’s way.

This radio contains waterproof features and is durable with an IPX4 waterproof score which makes it relatively resistant to damage from rain and splashing water. While this is a moderate score, given that this is fixed mount it should stay relatively dry and mounted in a covered area of your boat.

This is also a great choice if you are a bit more tech-savvy and seeking an aesthetically pleasing option. It has a light-up screen and digital selective calling with distress buttons, position send, and requests. This makes calling for help easy in a compact design with minimal bulk.

This selection is known for being long-lasting and reliable. Additionally, users enjoy the clear sound it provides and take note that if you have any muddling with your sound this is easily cleared with the assistance of an antenna as is the case with other fixed mount radios!

Pros:

  • Reputation for reliability
  • Equipped with SAME weather alert
  • User-friendly and easy to install

Cons:

  • The numbers and letters are a bit small for reading
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

2. Cobra MRHH350FLT Floating VHF Long Range Marine Radio

Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio – 6 Watt, Submersible, Noise Cancelling Mic, Backlit LCD Display, NOAA Weather, Memory Scan, Grey
  • Maximum Coverage – This VHF marine radio allows operation of channels in the US, Canada, and internationally at 1, 3, or 6 watts with for short and long range communication, and access to NOAA weather channels.
  • Safety First – Scan channels to find conversations in progress and have instant access to Channel 16 for emergency situations. Use the Tri-Watch feature to monitor three channels at once (Channel 16 and two user selected channel).
  • Sea Ready – Floating design and orange core makes retrieving your radio easy if dropped overboard, and meeting JIS7 (IPX7) standards allows your radio to be submersed for 30 minutes at one meter deep.
  • Clear Communication – Burp Feature vibrates the water out of the speaker grill and improves speaker performance, while the noise cancelling microphone blocks background noise for clearer conversations.
  • GIFTABLE AND GIVEABLE - Spread the love this holiday season by giving your loved one a holiday gift that keeps on giving! There's no time like the present for you to show how much you care by gifting someone with the ultimate boater protection!

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Cobra MRHH250FLT Floating VHF Long Range Marine Radio is considered a noteworthy choice. It is relatively moderate in price but packs plenty of high-quality features that are guaranteed to make you feel safer when away from land.

In addition to being high-quality, this product is also highly compact and portable. You may be worried that such a small radio could be easily dropped in the water, but this radio has the unique element in the fact that it ranks as Coast Guard waterproof and floats! In fact, this device is even submersible for up to 30 minutes in three feet of water.

Additionally, this is impressive for its display quality. The backlit display allows the radio to be visible in any weather conditions and it has simple output choices. This product is easy to operate

Additionally, the material is strong and durable while being ergonomic for the user. The radio itself also offers international coverage with 3 channel maps. It is equipped with 10 weather sources to give you peace of mind on your boat knowing you have contact with others and will be alerted of any storms that may be heading your way.

For a moderately priced option, this handheld option is a great choice. It has a user-friendly design and its operation is intuitive. Other perks such as the easy to spot color, backlighting, and additional technology exist too simply for the user’s convenience.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and Compact
  • Waterproof: Floats and Submersible
  • Many available channels

Cons:

  • For price, materials could be of higher quality
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

3. Standard Horizon HX870 Marine Radio

STANDARD HORIZON HX870 Floating 6W Handheld VHF with Internal GPS, Black
  • Floating 6W Handheld VHF with Internal GPS; Supplied with a 1800 mAh Li-Ion Battery, 110VAC and 12VDC 3-hour quick chargersAlkaline Battery Tray
  • Meets ITU-R M493-13 Class D DSC (Digital Selective Calling)
  • Separate Receiver for CH70 (Receiving DSC Calls)
  • Integrated 66 Channel WAAS GPS receiver.Submersible IPX8 waterproof rating (1.5M or 4.92 feet for 30 minutes)
  • Noise-canceling Function for both transmit and receive audio

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Although this is the priciest item in our collection of the five best marine radios, this selection earns its price with its many advanced functions and unprecedented reliability. This marine radio is equipped with Digital Selective Calling and meets Class D standards as well as having a separate receiver for receiving DSC Calls.

The radio hosts an impressive 66 Channels and has a noise-canceling function for both transmitting and receiving audio. This allows you to communicate with others while away from land in a concise manner while observing etiquette and not disrupting their time, even in non-emergency situations.

This marine radio is notable for its ability to float. Most unique perhaps is its waterproof score of an IPX8 rating. This receiver can be submerged underwater at a depth of nearly 5 feet for up to 30 minutes which is immense compared to other radios of similar proportions.

This marine radio also earned a spot on our list because it is compatible with big and small boats alike. It is tall and thick, but still handheld with a sizeable screen. The easy to operate system menu makes it usable by even the beginner.

Additionally, while it may seem unfortunate that this radio does not have a backlight for nighttime or adverse weather conditions, it is worth noting that it does have an emergency strobe light for situations. The radio is of high-quality materials and the display is still highly visible even without the backlighting.

The bottom line is that if you have the money to spare this is a great option for you that you know is reliable and is backed with a warranty. The price you pay is an investment and this radio will last you and provide you the peace of mind that you need to feel confident while at sea.

Pros:

  • Extremely waterproof with IPX8 score
  • Versatile for both large and small vessels
  • Audio can be muted and adjusted with ease

Cons:

  • Much higher in price
  • No backlit screen, but does have emergency strobe light
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

4. Standard Horizon Eclipse GX 1300 Fixed Mount VHF Radio

Standard Horizon GX1300B VHF, Eclipse, Basic, Black
  • Affordable Ultra Compact Class D Fixed Mount VHF Radio in Black
  • Meets ITU-R M493-13 Class D DSC (Digital Selective Calling)
  • Replaces older Eclipse+ and Eclipse DSC Models
  • New Ultra-Compact rear chassis design
  • Easy to Operate Icon/Menu System

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is another fixed-mount radio that we could not resist including on our list. This is an especially great option if you have a larger vessel but are looking for a fixed mount radio that has a more moderate price while still packing top-notch quality.

This fixed-mount radio is frankly an updated version of the Eclipse version and as such makes sure you are up to date with advanced safety features and capabilities that Standard Horizon includes in their other Eclipse Fixed Mount Models.

Although this is a fixed-mount, it is ultra-compact and meets all ITU and Class D requirements. The oversized full-matrix display stands out and is backlit for easy visibility. This device is overall extremely user friendly in its visual appearance.

In addition to its easily visible display, the radio also has clearly marked and easy to use buttons for the user. These icons and menus make it not only easy to communicate functionally, but they also provide security via easy use should an emergency arise.

Not only is this product functional, but it is also aesthetically pleasing with both black and white colors available. The mouth receiver is large and easy to hold in your hand, too.

Of course, this radio wouldn’t be on our list if it didn’t have a full range of channels and weather information. These features in addition to submersible IPX8 waterproof ratings are what set this device apart as a fixed mount purchase and make it worth buying.

Pros:

  • Programmable Soft Keys
  • IPX8 waterproof rating: submersible up to nearly 5 feet for 30 minutes
  • Ultra-compact with over-sized backlit screen for enhanced visibility

Cons:

  • For price materials could be higher quality when compared to competitors
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

5. Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio

Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio, Floating IPX7 Submersible Waterproof, Dual-Color Screen, All USA/International/Canadian Marine Channels, NOAA Weather Alert, 10 Hour Battery
  • The Atlantis 155’s submersible, Floating Handheld design allows you to stay secure and connected while having fun on the water.
  • With the Largest LCD screen in its class 25mm (h) x 40mm (w), and Paper White Backlight display for Day Time, and Red Backlight display for Night Time, it’s the radio you won’t leave shore without.
  • When every inch of space count, you still want the important features that will keep you safe at sea. The Atlantis 155 doesn’t sacrifice big features to keep its profile small.
  • It Floats, meets the toughest Waterproof standards IPX8 / JIS8, and even clears its speaker of water after being submerged. And with its compact size it’s never far away when you need to stay in touch the most.
  • Receives all Marine Radio Channels, including all USA, Canada, and International Marine VHF channels (includes the new 4-digit channels and Canadian “B” channels) and receives all NOAA Weather Channels and Alerts

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you are on a budget and looking for an affordable handheld radio that you can still rely on to keep you and those with you safe while aboard your vessel, the Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio is our recommendation for you. This radio rings up at $63.35 which is amazing considering all of its high-quality elements and its overall reliability and function.

This radio may be small, but the buttons are adequately sized for visibility and the screen is properly sized with white and red backlighting. The user is kept in mind with this design and it shows. Additionally, this radio boasts the largest LCD screen in its class, so you do not have to worry about squinting to see information.

This marine radio receives all marine radio channels and all available weather channels. You are in good hands leaving shore with this on your boat and it is reliable. This radio meets industry standards.

Additionally, this radio has NiMH battery charge capabilities and the option of plugging in to charge as well with its already extremely affordable cost. There are user options for altering power levels and you can adjust according to distance from other sources and at your discretion for etiquette purposes.

If you are concerned about going with a radio that is lower in price, you can feel secure with this option. This radio comes with a 3-year full warranty and waterproof protections, too! If you are not satisfied you can return it.

Although it is a smaller option, this choice is perfect for you if you have a smaller vessel and take on slightly shorter adventures. If you do not mind the simplicity and want to stay within budget, this might just be the perfect radio for you.

Pros:

  • Highly affordable at only $63.35
  • Submersible and Waterproof/Floats
  • Compact with high quality, visible features

Cons:

  • Some users report issues with the batteries
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Buying Guide

Purchasing a marine radio can be daunting especially when it is your first time. You need this radio to satisfy your needs and last you for years to come and in all situations. In order to determine which marine radio is best for you, there are several pieces of information you will first need to consider. When considering the features you need, your budget, and options available it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, but don’t worry, that’s why we put together this buyer’s guide to put your mind at ease.

Understand what a Marine Radio is

A marine radio can also be referred to as a very high frequency (VHF) radio that allows you to communicate with other boat operators and maritime help. It can be used in times of distress and for communicating generally with those surrounding the area.

Radio conversations are not private and must be for operational purposes per regulations. They can have functional use or more emergency based uses.

Having a marine radio is required of anyone offshore as they are the only communication option in times of need. It is a choice however in terms of which one you opt to purchase.

VHF radios work with radio wavelengths to send and receive transitions. They have consistent signal, particularly when there is a clear line of view and are a better option than a mobile phone when boating.

Know the Types of Marine Radios

There are two primary styles or types of marine radios and they are up to the person purchasing them and what fits their unique needs. Additionally, some styles may work better due to the size of your boat or console.

The first style is fixed-mount radios. These radios rely on electricity rather than batteries for their functions, which is why they are often seen on larger boats. Additionally, they require an antenna; although they need additional features, they often have advanced capabilities and signal ranges that surpass handheld.

The second and more common style is a handheld marine radio, which is what it sounds like. They are compact and portable and work well in smaller areas. They have lower power and can be supported by a battery and are reasonable in range for smaller adventures if this is what you are seeking to do.

Marine Radio Components to Consider

There are a lot of features that make some radios more desirable than others. One such feature is GPS navigation. GPS can help you navigate and find your way out of tough situations.

Another interesting feature is noise cancellation, which can be vital to not interfere with the enjoyment of your trip. This along with multi-channel streaming are key convenience features when it comes to radios.

You will have to consider the specific features your radio has and compare them against your needs. Make sure to consider the nature of your trip and boating activity before deciding.

Durability

It is important that your radio lasts you a while especially considering you will never know when you need it. It is important that you choose a radio that is made from solid materials and waterproof features since water can and will get into your boat at times.

Additionally, make sure that the radio manages to be compact but hardy. Boating can be a rough adventure and it will likely need to be shock resistant.

Price

The price will vary somewhat based on the size and features of your marine radio, but there is no way around having one so you must think critically about what you truly need it for.

If you go on larger boat trips with a bigger vessel, you will likely will need to get a more expensive one. If you have a smaller boat, the cheaper and smaller ones will suffice. An important thing to consider is that you cannot put a price on being protected during an emergency so try to keep this in mind during your search.

Etiquette

Marine radios must be used with a certain level of etiquette to ensure enjoyment for others at sea and their functionality in emergencies. Some marine radios are more conducive to this than others.

If you are concerned about others not being interrupted by your radio some qualities to look for are muting, low power options, volume adjustment, and a variety of channels. These can equip you to functionally use your radio and communicate with others without disturbing anyone.

If you are ever confused about appropriate etiquette it is best to err on the side of caution and respect. Etiquette rules for marine radios are available online as well.

Customer Satisfaction

At the end of the day, you are buying this radio because you value your safety. You know your comfort levels and style of boat use more than anyone, so keep this in mind when making your purchase.

If you worry that the radio you are buying will not last or work, then be sure to choose companies that offer warranties and money back or exchange guarantees. This can make you feel more comfortable about going through with the purchase of your marine radio.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about marine radios.

What power setting should I use on my radio?

As a form of etiquette and functionality, if you are using your radio while your radio contact is nearby you should reduce your power setting. Most radios can transfer between 5 and 25 watts, so turning to a low setting is around 1 watt. This will reduce the distance the signal carries and allow you to be courteous of those aboard other vessels.

Can I just use my cellphone instead of a marine radio?

No, cellphones are not a viable substitute for marine radios. Marine radios have much better signal all the way offshore when a cellphone does not. In a true emergency, a cellphone could not help you as a marine radio could.

Conclusion

In summation, selecting the best marine radio is a difficult but necessary task for anyone who plans on being offshore. Your marine radio needs to be durable and reliable so that you can count on it anytime you need to communicate with someone while on your boat.

At the end of the day, the Uniden UM385 25-Watt Fixed Mount Marine VHF radio receives our highest recommendation due to its top-notch features. This radio not only provides reliable, proven communication over a long-range, but it also predicts and protects from weather.

However, if you are on a bit of a tighter budget, we recommend you look at the Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld Two-way radio. This selection is affordable with the same reliable nature and high-quality features as some of the pricier radios.

You know your boating activity best, so be sure to look at our guiding features in the buyer’s guide and trust your instincts. This purchase is an investment, so it is best to focus on quality over the price if you can do so.